Long-form content is king. You may assume as demand for smaller screens and quicker gratification increases, that short-form content is the way to go.
After all, 61.6% of the world’s population is browsing from a smartphone these days. Surely, they don’t want to see long 3000-word posts about marketing and social media, right?
Well, maybe not.
Despite all logic telling us that we’d probably be better-off writing 500-word blogs than multi-page marketing guides and eBooks, the evidence suggests otherwise. The data from the analysis of the top ten results on Google show that short content appears much further down the search results than its long-form counterpart.
On top of that, the number of long-tail searches from customers looking for specific and informative content is increasing by the day.
You need long-form content. There’s no doubt about it.
What Is Long-Form Content?
Different people have different beliefs about long-form content. Some people say that 1,000 words is enough to be “long-form.” Others believe that you need at least a 2,000-word post if you want to go beyond basic blog size.
We’d suggest something in the region of 2000+ words.
The important thing to note about long-form content isn’t that it needs an exact number of words. What your long-form content really needs, is depth.
Long-form articles, guides, and blog posts require more extensive explanations and in-depth discussions than anything you would get from a 500-word post. You can’t just introduce someone to a topic. You need to provide a comprehensive overview of something, complete with explanations, statistics, graphics, and even actionable tips.
Just take a look at a post from Neil Patel for example.
Patel is one of the pioneers of the long-form content journey. He’s proven that if you can share valuable in-depth content, you can benefit.
Why is Long-Form Content Best?
Some topics just don’t need a lot of content.
However, most of the things that you’re going to write about could do with a little extra depth. If you find yourself thinking that you can tell your audience all about social media marketing in 500 words or less, you need to ask yourself what you’re missing out.
If this article was only 500 words long, we’d have enough time to introduce you to long-form content and a few stats. That’s great, but you’re missing other essential parts – like actionable tips on how to get started.
Long-form content allows you to give your audience more of what they want. The more value you deliver, the more you benefit from increased authority, happier clients, and even better search rankings. Remember, long-form content:
- Demonstrates your authority: Heard of E-A-T? It’s what Google looks for when searching for the brands to rank top of the list for search engine results. Expertise, Authority, and Trust. It’s hard to show either your expertise or your authority in a topic in only a few hundred words. Lengthy content allows you to show off your skills (and knowledge).
- Delivers better information: Rather than just scratching the surface of a topic, you can provide your customers with all the information they need in one place. Not only does this improve your reputation, but it means that your audience doesn’t have to go searching on your competitor’s blog for a knowledge top-up.
- Improves your SEO: Studies consistently prove that long-term content does lead to better search results. There are a few reasons for this, but one major factor is that long-form content keeps your customer on your website for longer. The more time your clients spend interacting with your site, the more authority Google assumes that you have.
The Stats on Long-Form Content
Still not sure we’re giving you all the information. No problem let’s share some stats.
Back in 2012, SerpIQ performed an extensive study regarding content length, checking out which pages ranked the highest for 20,000 keywords, and how much content they had. According to the study:
- Pages in 10th position had at least 400 words less than those in the first position
- Text length for those in the top 10 positions on any keyword was always over 2000 words
- Pages with more than 2,450 words almost always took the top spot.
Of course, 2012 is quite a while ago now, so let’s look at some more recent discoveries too.
- Orbit Media found that the average blog post today is around 1142 words long, suggesting a growing trend towards more in-depth content.
- Research from Hubspot indicates that long-form content is more likely to earn high-quality backlinks. Since links affect your SEO potential – that’s a big deal.
- Google officially released a statement saying that its users didn’t want to search for bits and pieces of information, but instead wanted to see everything they need in one place.
- Curata found that on average, long-form blog posts can achieve up to nine times more leads than their short-form competitors.
- Prospects prefer lengthy content like white papers when making purchasing decisions. 78% of buyers in a study from Curata said they relied on whitepapers to make a choice.
- Hubspot’s analysis of content also found that long-form content was more likely to get social shares than short-form pieces.
- CrazyEgg found that long-form content converts up to 30% more than short-form content.
How to Write Long Form Content
If you’re going to create in-depth content for your audience, you can’t just add extra words to your short-form posts. Stretching simple topics into complex explanations isn’t enough. Long-form content needs to get to the heart of whatever you’re talking about.
Step 1: Start by Choosing the Right Topics
Start by choosing the right topic. In most cases, the right topic will be a combination of something that you know your audience wants to read about and something that you’re comfortable talking about. Start by making a list of topics you’re informed in.
If you’re a social media marketer, then it makes sense that you would know a lot about social media. So, what are you going to tell your customers about? Head to BuzzSumo for some tips:
Checking out the things that are already ranking will give you a good insight into what your audience wants to read about. From there, you can make decisions about what you feel most authoritative about. For instance, maybe you could write a topic on the “dangers of social media” and tailor it to your business audience?
Once you have a basic idea, break it down into different segments, such as:
- Deciding which content to share on social media
- Protecting your social media accounts
- Maintaining a brand reputation on social media
And so on.
Step 2: Choose the Right Format
Once you have the topic that you want to cover in mind, think about how you’re going to format it.
You can post a basic blog- sure, but there are plenty of other options too. Would it help to create an article with various videos and visual explanations embedded into the post? Adding visual components to your content can make it easier for your audience to understand what you’re writing about.
For instance, Campaign Monitor’s long-form guide here includes an easy-to-follow video:
Maybe it would help to break a complex idea down into a listicle, or a step-by-step how-to article. Maybe you could split an extra complicated topic up into several articles instead?
Your choice of format will help you to figure out the information you need to cover, what extra features you need to add to your content, and more. For instance, if you create an in-depth piece of content with a unique infographic, you might need as much written text, because you’ve already presented a lot of data in your image.
Remember, measure the success of each piece of content that you create. This will help you to determine which kinds of information your audience responds best to.
Step 3: Create a Content Schedule
Finally, when you’re creating content, it’s important to have a content calendar to guide you.
Start by tracking the kind of content you’re creating, when you’re creating it, and when you’re publishing it. A content schedule will help you to make sure that you’re delivering the information your audience wants consistently, not just now and again.
Remember, you don’t necessarily have to promote extra-long content all the time. However, a content schedule will help you to figure out how often you should be posting lengthy content, and when you should be topping it up with shorter pieces.
Fill your content calendar up with different kinds of content to keep your readers informed and engaged. One week you might have an extra-long piece surrounded by a few videos or short articles. The next week, you may follow up with a podcast and a few blogs.
Examples of Excellent Long-Form Content in Action
Sometimes the best way to figure out how to proceed with your content strategy is to check out other successful examples of long-form content.
As the content marketing world continues to head towards a demand for long-form content, there are plenty of great opportunities out there to explore. For instance:
- The Atlantic
One of the most-cited pieces of long-form content in history, the Atlantic published a powerful tribute to the impact that Barack Obama’s presidency had on the world. The piece is emotional, in-depth, and more importantly, it comes with multiple different kinds of media to explore. For instance, there’s an audio version of the article included from the original author, if you don’t have time to scroll through six full chapters.
Speaking of which, the article is split up into different sections so it’s easier to consume all at once. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re planning on creating a very long piece.
Visit virtually any blog on the Moz website, and you’ll find relatively in-depth and expansive coverage of a topic. I’ve chosen a recent piece to highlight here, called “How to Query Google Search Console API”.
The great thing about this long-form content is that it’s very easy to consume. Everything is broken down into bight-sized chunks, with bullet points and tiny paragraphs. The sentences are easy to read, and there’s a lot of visual content included too. Moz shows that long-form content doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
- Google Trends
Every year, Google publishes an update to let us all know what we’ve been searching for recently. The latest year at the time of writing this was 2019. The great thing about this long-form content is that it basically provides a very easy-to-use research source.
Everything you need to know about the top searches is broken down into endless lists and groupings, with a video encompassing some of the most iconic moments of the year.
- Neil Patel
We mentioned Neil Patel above when discussing examples of sensational long-form content. One of the things that makes Neil so effective in his role as a thought leader, is the fact that he knows how to provide in-depth and helpful articles.
This particular piece on long-form content examples doesn’t just introduce readers to the kind of long-form content that achieves incredible things for its companies. It also tells you how to imitate the material that you see and achieve similar results.
Finally, CoSchedule’s list-format article highlights how you can create an amazing piece of long-form content, while still keeping things simple. The brand’s piece on effective blog title formulas provides tons of ideas for customers who want to change up their titles, without getting too deep into any one strategy.
This is a good example of how you can cover a broad topic in your content, without getting too comprehensive. Lists can be long-form too.
5 Tips for Writing Long-Form Content
Okay, so you know why long-form content is valuable, and you’ve seen some examples of long-form pieces in action. Now it’s time to put your skills to the test.
Before you get started with your long-form content:
- Reconsider Your Length
We mentioned above that the average length of a blog post is 1142 words.
Knowing how many words you want to aim for in a piece of long-form content can help to guide you in determining how detailed you really need to be. However, it’s important not to get too focused on your word count.
If you get into a blog telling yourself that you’re going to need to cover 1500 words, but you only really have enough information for 1200, the chances are that you’ll end up with a lot of filler. Your customers don’t want to read that extra content that you came up with just to flesh the piece out. Don’t pick a specific word count; tell yourself that your blog will be as long as it needs to be to answer your customers’ most crucial questions.
If you finish writing a 3,000-word piece and then discover that 90% of it is fluff. Start again.
- Transform your Old Articles
Want to take advantage of long-form content – but don’t have a lot of time on your hands? No problem.
One of the easiest ways to create long-form content is to collect some of your old, shorter articles, and pull them together into a more comprehensive piece. For instance, say you had an article about social media marketing on Instagram, one on Facebook, and one on Pinterest.
Perhaps you could pull those three articles together, and add some other platforms to the mix too, like LinkedIn and Twitter? Once you’ve spruced up the article, make sure that you get rid of any extra waffle that your customers don’t need, and start promoting it again. You can even transform the piece even further by using it to inspire a podcast or video series.
Providing your audience with different versions of your best content will not only improve your chances of gaining followers, but it could also mean that you’re more likely to earn backlinks from other companies that want to reference you.
- Keep the Customer at the Forefront
Yes, long-form content can improve your SEO rankings. It can also increase your authority and boost your chances of sales. However, that isn’t what you should be focusing on when you’re writing.
Rather than producing long-form content for the sake of having it, you should be making sure that every piece you produce is there for a reason. Sit down with your content ideas and brainstorm what you’re going to produce ahead of time. Think about what your customers will be looking for in a long-form article about each topic.
For instance, if you’re writing a piece about influencer marketing, you can:
- Create a list of questions that your customers usually have about influencer marketing
- Discuss some trending topics related to influencer marketing, and give your opinion on them
- Reference studies and cases that your customers might find useful
- Provide guidance and how-to sections in your posts
Think about how every section of your long-form content can provide the most possible value for your customer. Go beyond the basics.
- Add input from other authorities
Want your long-form content to prove your expertise in a field?
Long-form content is more likely to give you the thought leadership status than you crave than short-form blogs. However, you can’t just post thousands of words and expect to be the world’s next specialist. You need to prove to your customers that you can be trusted.
This means thinking about ways that you can improve your credibility.
What makes you so knowledgeable about a topic? Can you provide stories and insights from your background? Do you have sources that you can reference for the statistics that you mention, or maybe links to your own studies?
If you’re struggling to prove your expertise on your own, you could even think about getting other thought leaders and influencers involved.
- Edit Every Piece
Finally, long-form content is your chance to really show the world and your industry what you’re made of. The last thing you want is for your piece to be riddled with mistakes.
Remember, this is the content that Google is going to be evaluating to determine whether you earn a top spot in the rankings for your chosen keyword. Make sure that it’s properly optimized with authoritative external and internal links, images, and excellent formatting. Take the time to check that your keywords are present in all the meta descriptions and alt tags too.
Don’t just think about what Google needs from your long-form content either. Double-check for any mistakes that might confuse your audience or grammatical errors that could harm your reputation. Most importantly remove any content that isn’t necessary. You don’t want your audience to be intrigued by your 3000-word blog only to discover that 300 words of it are helpful.
When Not to Write Long Form Content
It might seem strange that after all these lines waxing lyrical about the benefits of long-form content, we would tell you that sometimes you’re not going to need it.
However, the truth is that long content isn’t going to be the best solution for every occasion. Short pieces of content can be just as useful in your content strategy if they’re used correctly. What’s more, if you don’t have a lot of information to cover, a short piece will allow you to get to the point faster.
We’d recommend staying away from long-form content if:
- You know for a fact that your audience prefers shorter content, based on the research you do and your marketing analytics. Every audience is different, give yours what they want.
- You’re not going to be covering anything valuable or interesting in the content. An introductory guide to “what is a bowl” that’s 20,000 words long isn’t going to appeal to many people.
- You’re just repeating what your competitors say. You can’t just re-write what your competition has said before and assume it’s going to give you ranking potential. If you’re not saying something new or sharing better data, don’t bother.
Short-form content could also be a better option if you want to get information across quickly, such as with a press release or a news story.
Long-Form Content: It’s an Art
Whether you like it or not, most businesses have a need for long-form content.
Ultimately, there’s always going to be something in your industry that requires informative and in-depth coverage. If you can show your audience that you’re the expert on your niche, then you could stand out as the ultimate thought leader in your space.
That means that you outshine the competition, earn more customers, and even rank higher too.
Just make sure that you’re using long-form content for the right reasons.
Plan exactly what you’re going to talk about, and why. Make sure that you’re delivering value and avoid pointless fluff. You’ll master the art of long-form content eventually.